Mobile phone in Switzerland: „Es Natel“

In Switzerland, a mobile phone is called a Natel“ or sometimes, much to the amusement of many English speakers,  „Handy“, which is the same name that is used in Germany.

Before we go more into mobile phones, here is some information on fixed phone lines. The phone plugs used in Switzerland are the so-called  Reichle Stecker  (just in case you want to impress the technician at the electronics shop or at  Coop). There are two different types of cable/plug, which can be a bit confusing. The easiest and safest way to get around this is to buy a new telephone when you move into a new place. Phones are inexpensive and you will avoid the annoyance of having to possibly buy an adapter or deal with a technician who will charge you a hefty fee for his services. When you order an internet connection, the provider usually throws in a router.

A smartphone in Switzerland is always a “Natel”

Fixed line, internet and television providers

There are two large service providers for fixed line, internet and television.  Swisscom is the largest and one of the most expensive providers. It is not always the most expensive; the provider offers many different deals tailored to your requirements. In my opinion, Swisscom provides the best service particularly when it comes to quality TV.

The second largest service provider is UPC, which distinguishes itself through extremely fast internet connections. Aside from these two major players, there are a few smaller providers and, in most canton, local providers. It is worth noting that the UPC cable connection in some apartments is included in the ancillary costs, whether it is used or not. If you do not want to use this connection, it is possible to have the connection sealed. Talk to your landlord about having this done.

Licence fees in Switzerland: Billag

Every household that has devices capable of receiving radio or television, is obliged to register with and subsequently pay licence fees to Billag. Private users pay a fee of 165 CHF for radio reception and 286.10 CHF for television reception (as of September 2017). The bill can be paid on a quarterly basis with a surcharge of 2 CHF per invoice. The licence fee is per household; it is irrelevant how many people or devices use the connection.




Telesales: how a „star“ entry can help

You do not have to register your phone number in the phone book, but it does have one huge advantage: you can specify that your entry is marked with a star which means that telemarketers are prohibited from contacting you. Unfortunately, not all cold callers respect this, but, in my opinion, this happens less often. Certainly, companies based in Switzerland will stick to this prohibition. Should a company call anyway, just remind them of the fact that your entry is starred and they will leave you alone.

A special feature in Switzerland is that you can keep your phone number after moving whether you change cantons or not. This is why it is not immediately obvious which canton your caller might be living in.

The best mobile phone („Natel“) provider

You can use any European mobile phone in Switzerland, although some providers may have installed a country-specific „SIM-Lock“ with your phone contract. It is worth a quick call to your provider if you are not sure if they have done this.

Mobile phone usage, in particular smart phone usage, is very common in Switzerland with 94% of the population having a mobile internet connection. Apple is particularly popular in Switzerland.


There are three mobile phone networks in Switzerland. Swisscom offers the best coverage but is expensive. 65% of all Swiss use Swisscom as their provider. Salt (formerly Orange) and Sunrise are cheaper than Swisscom but have less coverage area. Of course, there are more providers, but they all use one of these three networks. Mobile phone dialling codes are 076, 077, 078 and 079, but you cannot tell which network your caller is using because, just like with fixed net phones, you can keep your phone number when you switch providers.

Hotlines and service numbers: what are the costs?

Premium phone numbers or fee-based hotlines start with 090x. Be aware of the differences between call and call-back because the costs can vary dramatically. Should the basic charge or the price per minute be 2 CHF, it must be announced before the phone call. You can have these numbers blocked by your service provider so that you do not get charged accidentally. The prefix 0800 is only used for free numbers. However, if these numbers are called from abroad, you may be charged. 084X is often used for service hotlines. These numbers are not free to call, but will not cost more than 8 cents per minute if you phone from a fixed line.

In summary: 0800 numbers are always free of charge and 090 number are extremely expensive to call.


Telephone, Internet and Television in Switzerland
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